Aaron Kasinitz of PennLive.com has a hot take on the Ravens bye week… it is a hard look at why the Ravens are not exactly confident in their offense going into the break.
“Deep completions have morphed into near-misses and razor-like efficiency has devolved into sporadic production. The Baltimore Ravens enter their bye week at 5-1, still a Super Bowl contender, but with a passing game that hasn’t matched its success from a season ago.
“MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson’s completion percentage (66.1 in 2019 to 63 this year), yards per pass attempt (7.8 to 7) and passer rating (113.3 to 99.2) have all dipped from last season. Miscommunications with wide receiver Miles Boykin and a lack of success on deep throws have emerged as storylines, even while wins pile up.
“We’ve seen great stretches of [consistency], and there’s been some throws we’d like to have back or some routes maybe we’d like to have back, and we’re working very hard on that,” quarterbacks coach James Urban said Tuesday. “These next couple days, we’re going to spend some time getting some of those things cleaned up.”
In fact, the Ravens can put special emphasis on tidying up those details this week. Baltimore practiced Tuesday afternoon and will do so again Wednesday before players take off for four days during the bye. The Ravens will begin preparing to host the AFC North-leading Steelers next week, but in the meantime, Urban said the staff can design practices to hone fundamental skills and improve connections.
“We’re not preparing for a game this week, so there’s less game-plan specific discussion,” Urban said. “In many ways, it’s like a training camp or an OTA practice, where we’re working on us. We’re working on our offense specifically, where we’re working on rhythm and passing and those kinds of things.”
Many players and coaches are hopeful that the practice time might make a difference in part because they said the issues weighing down the passing game are not complex.
Though Jackson’s completion percentage has sagged in recent games, Urban shrugged off those numbers and said his quarterback has thrown several passes away when he couldn’t find an open receiver, skewing the stats. Urban also said he’s not concerned about Jackson’s mechanics after he threw several side-armed passes in last Sunday’s two-point win over the Eagles.
Jackson said he changed his arm angle to fit passes through tight windows, and he hasn’t noticed a change in his fundamental throwing motion.
“I don’t think I’ve slipped,” Jackson said.
As far as game planning and schemes go, Ravens pass game coordinator and wide receivers coach David Culley said Tuesday that deep throws are still coming open in Baltimore’s offense. Jackson and the receivers just need to connect more often to lift the statistics and jolt the offense.
“Last year, early in the year, we took those shots, and we hit a couple,” Culley said. “We’ve taken those same shots this year, and we’ve missed a few times. And we’re going to continue to take those shots, and we’ve just been a little bit off the mark. During this time right now and over the next couple of days, we’re working on that. We’re going to keep taking those shots. They’re there. And we feel like we’re going to end up hitting those shots.”
There’s little doubt that a few big plays in the passing game would alter the complexion of Baltimore’s season and its offense. They would stretch out defenses and provide chances for quick scores. They could make things less crowded for the running game, too.
Marquise Brown, the Ravens’ leading receiver and primary deep ball threat, said he just needs to keep running routes in practice to improve his chances of hauling in those long passes.
“When the opportunity presents itself in a game, we’ve just got to hit,” Brown said. “It’s not really this hard thing. We’ve just gotta go out there and do it.”
Some aspects of the Ravens’ offense that have drawn criticism from fans — from the line’s lack of dominant play to the absence of a third receiving target who consistently produces — won’t be fixed through a couple days of attention and a week without games. There is evidence that a bye could be beneficial on the whole, though.
Coach John Harbaugh is 10-2 coming out of regular-season byes as Ravens coach, and Jackson pointed out the team’s offense began to trend upward after time off last year. Baltimore won five of its first seven games in 2019, but the offense’s success to that point had fluctuated.
Jackson completed a career-low 45% of his passes in a Week 7 win over the Seahawks that came directly before last season’s bye week. After the bye? Jackson threw 25 touchdowns to one interception over his final eight games and won AFC Offensive Player of the Week four times.
“We picked it back up, I’d say, after our bye week,” Jackson said Tuesday on a video conference call. “Hopefully, [this year] will be similar to that.”